There were those who doubted I would ever finish my Galapagos travel posts. Need I remind you that wrapping up these posts was one of my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions? And it’s only May. I think I did pretty good. In fact, today, the day this post appears, is the day we actually arrived back home in Canada. May 6, 2012. One would almost think I’d planned my year of posts this way, no? One would think I had that much foresight. That I am that clever. Or one might think something else entirely. I’ll leave what you think up to you.
Galapagos Cruise: Day 15
Ecuador Trip: Days 20-21
I switched around the headings just to keep you on your toes.
On the last day of our cruise, we had to get up super early because the flight home from Baltra Island left in early afternoon. I don’t know about you, but I have a tough time going to sleep when I know I have to catch a plane the next morning. It’s dumb, because not only did my husband have an alarm set on his Blackberry but Harry, our guide, woke us up every morning with an announcement over the loudspeakers. Harry was quite imaginative with his wake-up calls, and we smiled with sadness that this would be our last one.
When you’re on a Galapagos cruise, though, it’s unlikely that you’ll wake up, eat, and travel to the airport. There’s always something to do along the way. Whether you accomplish one or both visits on your itinerary depends on what time your plane is landing or departing. When we arrived on Baltra at the start of our cruise, it was late enough in the day that we didn’t have time to visit both sites on the itinerary. The same occurred the day we left. We had time to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, but we did not have time to visit the Twin Craters, although we passed them on our way to the airport.
In all honesty, if you do a two-week cruise in the Galapagos and follow the same itinerary we did, by the time you get to visit Charles Darwin Research Station, it’s the third such visit and might not feel strictly necessary. We visited similar sites on other islands, during Week 1 and Week 2. But the Charles Darwin Research Station WAS home to Lonesome George, who was about 100 when he died on June 24, 2012, about six weeks after we saw him (we had nothing to do with it, I swear!). And visiting the icon was something we did not want to miss.
Here he is, in all his lonesome glory:
A lot of fuss was made about Lonesome George, because he was the last of his sub-species, also famous for not wanting to get jiggy with it with any of the female tortoises. In other words, George didn’t make any babies once he was in captivity.
Lonesome George was the last of the land tortoises found on Pinta Island. In 1972, he was transported to the Research Station to encourage mating with other, similar tortoises found on other islands. Alas, George would not have it. Meanwhile, another tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station, Super Diego, has been having babies out his whazoo (or the females’ whazoos) for several years. Hence the “Super.”
Apparently, Lonesome George did manage to impregnate a couple of females at some point, but the eggs were not viable. Lonesome was determined to remain Lonesome!
Bye-bye Lonesome George!
After seeing Lonesome George (during which one of my fellow travelers told me that I have “too much energy” – can you believe that, anyone who’s met me?), we boarded a little bus and headed back for the tiny ferry that would take us to Baltra Island. Then we boarded another little bus and went to the airport.
It was sad saying goodbye to Harry, because when you develop a rapport with your guide, he begins to feel like a friend, not “just” a guide. So there were many sad faces amongst our group as we left Harry at the airport. And, we were also sad that WE would be parting ways. There were many hugs, talking and laughing on the flight from Baltra back to Quito. First, we had to leave a lovely couple from Australia at the airport at Guayaquil. The rest of the party got off in Quito, but of eight of us who had become quite close during Week 2, only the Group of Four were actually flying home that night. Our flight wasn’t until 11 p.m. out of Quito, which isn’t the largest airport in the world. So when a couple from Ontario invited us to leave our suitcases in storage at the Quito airport and join them for dinner in a couple of hours, well, that seemed like a very good idea. Two other cruisers had massages booked back at their hotel, but when they found out the Group of Four was spending the evening in Quito, of course they dropped everything and came to see us!
The six of us went out to dinner, and although we were all exhausted by then and eager to get back to our respective homes, we had a lot of fun.
The Group of Four got up before 5 a.m. to have breakfast on The Cormorant and then go see Lonesome George. Our flight left Quito, like I said, at 11 p.m. at night. No sleeping was done in the interim. And we had to change planes twice before we finally arrived back in Canada on May 6th, 2012. Despite the exhaustion that long hours of travel brings, though, My Liege and I were both full of a weird energy those first couple of weeks after we arrived home. Yes, he got sick at the end of the cruise and had to miss the last excursion, and, yes, I got sick because he got sick, but I managed to wait until we arrived home. But the feeling of utter joy and freedom and happiness, when you are getting along with people and you have a fantastic guide and crew at your disposal, you’re exploring new islands every day and having amazing experiences…the Galapagos stays with you for a very long time. Even now, writing about it, I smile. Because I miss the Islands. I don’t know if I would ever want to visit again, because I know it would not be the same. However, one couple we met on Week 2, from Germany, were staying for two weeks, and their Week 2 was the same itinerary we’d had on Week 1…our trip with them was their second or third to the Galapagos. They just love it. I’ve also heard from others who have visited the Galapagos more than once that even if you follow a similar itinerary, it isn’t the same. You go at a different time of year, a slightly different route, and the people are different, the time of day you visit a site might be different. You might not get to see the Waved Albatross and you might not get to swim with young sea lions, but you will see baby sea turtles breaking out of their eggs and rushing down to the ocean (something we didn’t get to see because the eggs were still in the sand nests), and you might see more sharks and tropical fish and porpoises and pilot whales (the latter two which we didn’t see). Or you might island-hop instead of going on a cruise. Or you might take up diving and have a totally different experience than on a snorkeling cruise. It would be awfully tempting to go again.
If I won a mega-lottery, I would totally go again with my husband and take my sons and their respective S.O.’s along. In the meantime…